Written by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel | Art by Lee Sullivan | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 32pp
The first Rivers of London arc, ‘Body Work‘, was a nice 5 issue jaunt, enjoyable throughout without ever really being an essential read. We got a nice grounding in the world of PC Peter Grant, and an introduction to the supporting cast and characters that populate both the novels and now the comics, which both co-exist together in harmonious continuity. For those new to the title, Rivers of London follows PC Peter Grant, who works for the Met Police department that deals with magic and supernatural crimes, a kind of London-based X-Files. The slight difference is that Peter, and indeed his immediate boss Nightingale, have actual magical abilities of their own, wizard detectives if you will, which they utilise when needed. It’s a fun premise, and having the creator and writer of the ongoing novels Ben Aaronovitch onboard as co-writer ensures already established fans will be happy.
In a thematic shift from the haunted car story of the first arc, here we are plunged into the murky world of Russians in London, but not just any Russians. The opening sequence sees an attempted rescue of a Russian woman, Varvara Sidorovna Tamonina, who looks way too young for someone who served in the Russian Air Force in the First World War, and who is also someone that doesn’t want to be rescued either. Turns out Varvara is under protection in the UK, but someone in Russia wants her back, which sees Grant and Nightingale enter as they investigate the failed rescue/ kidnapping.
Varvara it appears has something of a colourful past, having served with the Night Witches squadron in WW1, and is quite the powerful practicing witch. She is soon after sought out by a pair of wealthy Russians, who want her help finding their daughter, who has apparently been kidnapped by a supernatural creature. She refuses, but refers them to Nightingale and the Special Assessment Unit. A quick potted history of the last two decades in Russia also points at a few more things that may see the light of the day as the story unfolds further. There was a whole lot of set-up in this issue, and surprisingly little of the main characters. This is fine if you are a fan of the novels or, like me, have read the first story arc, but may have been pretty confusing for new readers. There was a lot to take in, though most of it was this story specific to be fair.
Lee Sullivan’s artwork was as good as I was expecting. As you would expect from someone with not only excellent comic book experience but who also storyboards for film and television, Sullivan lays out his panels well, paces his pages perfectly, and of course composes his ‘shots’, his panel angles and character placing, expertly. The colouring tops off something that’s really nice to look at, and flows effortlessly from page to page.
A promising start to this arc, albeit one that may confuse completely new readers. The things that make PC Grant and Nightingale such interesting characters are barely glimpsed here, which is a shame, but hopefully that’s because now the back story and the characters have been established the main story can push on.
Night Witch #1 reminded me this is indeed a world I do enjoy dropping in on.
Rivers of London: Night Witch #1 is out now from Titan Comics